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Victoria Wood: A life in comedy

BY Mandi Goodier

1st Jan 2015 Celebrities

Victoria Wood: A life in comedy

Victoria Wood is one of Britain's finest comedy writers. Her talent spanned both screen and stage, and has made her one of our best-loved entertainers. What more fitting way to celebrate her life than to look back at her crowning comedy moments.

Two Soups

Victoria Wood rose to fame in the 1970s after appearing on the talent show New Faces. From here, she joined current affairs show That's Life and her popularity soared.

It was in the 1970s that she formed a friendship with lifelong collaborator Julie Walters. Wood wrote a role for her in her 1978 show Talent, which ITV immediately snapped up and made a television adaptation.

But it was her 1984 move to the BBC that really caught the public's attention. Her series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV produced some of the most memorable sketches in British television history. In 1996, the show was even awarded "All-Time Favourite Comedy Series" by the BBC.

Who could forget the wonderful "Two Soups" sketch? Certainly no one who grew up in the 1980s. In an interview with Julie Walters, Reader's Digest editor Tom Browne asked what she's most remembered for. Walters recalled filming Indian Summers: "It's usually 'Two Soups'. There’s a scene in Indian Summers where I come out with a couple of plates. All the young actors fell about laughing—I thought, 'Play the bloody scene!'"

 

Acorn Antiques

Another recurring sketch from the show was "Acorn Antiques". It parodied the soap opera Crossroads, which with its cheap productions and overacting was almost a comedy in itself.

Set in the fictional, and hilariously titled, Manchesterford, this comedy went beyond the storyline—everything was up for grabs, seizing all opportunities to swipe at the long-running low-budget soaps of the time, complete with love triangles, continuity issues, wobbly sets and missed cues. 

Wood transformed the show into successful musical in 2005.

 

Dinnerladies

Wood maintained a private life away from the media, raising two children in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. During this period, she wrote many self-contained shows and television specials. 

In 1998, she returned with the series Dinnerladies. In a television landscape dominated by men, Wood really was a trailblazer when it came to her shows. Continuing with the tradition of mostly female, mostly middle-aged characters, Dinnerladies put a humorous spin on this otherwise mundane place of work.

But Wood was never afraid to show diversity, using this series to tackle sad themes such as family deaths, dealing with cancer, the hardship of single parents and heartache—all of which gave her characters depth, making them more real. It's something we were about to see a lot more of in comedy writing.

 

A woman of many talents

As if it wasn't enough to be one of Britain's greatest comedy writers, Wood was also a fine musician, incorporating ivory-tickling into her humour. Perhaps her most memorable composition was "Let's Do It (The Ballad of Barry and Freda)". 

Again, we find Wood's ability to find fun in the norm. Her creations spoke to the everyday Briton, who related to situations, characters and songs alike. It's perhaps this down-to-earth observational quality that led to her enduring, memorable career.

Victoria Wood died on 20 April 2016 after a short battle with cancer, but her status as a comedy legend will live forever.

 

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